Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Departs With Damaging Cold (But Not For Us)

We rarely see cold in the -23c area, in fact up until a few days ago we've only seen these temperatures 2 times in the past 14 years - now its 3 times. On December 27th we got a cold blast that took us to the -23c zone and the entire region was blanketed with the bone chilling cold. That temperature is ok for us, but some other areas in the Okanagan were not spared and endured colder temperatures down to -27c and added wind chill values as low as -38c. For us -23c is not a critical temperature as nearly all our commercial varieties have good cold tolerance to about -27c or colder but still we prefer a bit warmer winter for both the vines and our sake.

For most vinifera varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot etc., -23c is kind of the make it or break it zone as these varieties don't have much cold tolerance beyond -23c. So this is bad news for some grape growing areas in BC. Kamloops was in a deep freeze for a few days in the -27c zone as was Kelowna showing -27c on both December 27th and December 28th and wind chill values in Kamloops were -38c and Kelowna -34c. That's not good and some bud, if not trunk, damage can be expected but we will hope for the best for those out there as you really never know what this all means until the spring comes.


Lots of winter ahead of us yet and about 1 foot of snow on the ground so far, the big snow usually comes in January-February. We are hoping for milder winter temperatures to take us into spring and if -23c is as cold as we get then we are good.

As we end 2021 we reflect on the challenging year for weather in BC, -24c cold in February, -2c record breaking frost in late May, record breaking +46c heat in early July, forest fire threats in July and August, record breaking rain and destruction in November and now -23c in December....but we also look forward to the new year and the next growing season with excitement.

Hoping for a better year in 2022 and wishing everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Harvest 2021

I think we will remember 2021 as a very challenging year. It started in February with a -24.5c cold blast that damaged buds on many varieties, to a record late spring frost in May that killed about 30-40% of the crop and some vines. The image below shows several buds that were killed by the frost.

What we learned though was some of our varieties are quite fruitful on the secondary buds...the image above shows the primary bud that was killed by the frost but then the secondary bud just below it growing nicely and showing 3 flower clusters emerging.

Then five weeks later we had records of 46c temperatures in July that killed some of the crop and damaged the fruit, which later led to fungal pressure on the grapes. The intense heat split the grapes that were exposed to the sun while the shaded side was fine. Same cluster below shade side and sun side.

The intense heat brought forest fire pressures a few weeks later and forest fires very close to the vineyard but the winds changed in time and our area was spared. We got some rain in mid-August that helped suppress the fires

The heat also led to a very serious forest fire threats and many mitigation efforts on our part, but also the fire displaced many animal and the scourge of them getting into the vineyard and eating the grapes (birds, gophers, skunks, raccoons, and bears) despite the netting.

In the end what we harvested was well ripened and we recorded the most heat over the season at over 1100 DDG over 160 frost free days and we also planted about 3000 row feet of new vines.

 We also lucked out with nice weather through harvest. We will post the final ripeness and climate data in a few weeks.

 Already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Planting New Vines from Spring Cuttings

In the spring I blogged about growing grape vines from cuttings for fall planting. You can go back to the previous blog to see how the cuttings progressed from May to present, - here is the May 2021 post and here is the June 2021 post

We grow the cuttings in a 1 foot x 1 foot container in 2 inch by 2 inch sleeves. This gives us 36 vines per square foot incubator. The propegation rate was approximately 75% and would have been higher but we lost probably 10% due to the intense 44c heat we had in early July. However, of the cuttings that did grow into vines, we only planted out the best vines from each group. The result is about 65% of the cuttings were strong enough with big enough roots to move into the field. The other ones that were smaller and weaker are going to be left in the incubator and grown bigger next year and will be planted out in the field next fall.

In mid September the vines had achieved good growth over the summer and were ready to move from the nursery to the field. Here is a picture of the group of vines that have been extracted from the incubator. The roots are somewhat tangled and have to be gently separated. Once separated they can be planted in the ground. 

This picture below shows the both the top growth and root growth of the vine that occurred from the cutting planted in may. All in all we planted out 1500 row feet this past week and we have another 1500 row feet to get planted in the next few weeks. Next spring we will plant 3000 more row feet of vines.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Fires are Holding

 Truely amazing how fast things change from a few small fires in the distance that were not really a threat to massive fires just a few kilometers away and evacuation.

In the past few days winds have bern in our favour and the fires have not advanced much and fire crews have been able to fortify defences. So we are downgraded to evacuation alert.

We were able to come back and first priority is clearing a bigger perimeter around the buildings. Going to miss those nice trees around the house but weve got lots fire wood for next year.

It is still very smoky and you can barely see the trees on the next hill and lots of ash falling ..can see it on the truck canopy and the vines.

On the bright side the grapes are comming along pretty good with some approaching bunch closure so they will be turning colour soon. And there is a possibility of rain in the next week so we hope for a good soaker and no lightning.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Forest Fires Are Threatening

 Arrow Lakes Vineyard is located in the central Kootenays of British Columbia. Logging is the primary vocation in the area and the vineyard was carved out of a forested area and for the most part the entire region is forested. 

This year like so many in the recent past has seen threat of forest fires but this year is different as we have fires all around us. Just 7 days ago a few small fires started due to lightning strikes in remote areas and in such a short time the have each grown into huge fires over 3000 hectares and moved quickly to become threatening. There is a huge fire just a few kms away across Arrow Lakes. We have another big one to the south about 15km that is slowly coming up the lake shore towards the vineyard. And we have a new fire started from lighting strike about 12km to the north of the vineyard. Here is a picture of the fire on the east side of Arrow Lakes and a map view of the two big fires.

The area including the vineyard is under evacuation order. Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbors and those displaced from the fires and the police and fire responders.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Grapes are Looking Good

 Most spectacular spectrum of weather weve had this year breaking records for cold in May and heat in June. The first 2 weeks into July have continued the hot trend with day time temperatures ranging from 32c to 37c. This is very high heat for our location and has brought the grapes along very quick. 

We are about 1 week ahead of normal now and with this high heat having good moisture is importants and weve lucked out with a few big down pours of rain in early July. Pretty good conditions so far and we should see these turning red in early August.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bloom Time and Fruit Set

 Its June 24th and we went from May as one of the coolest Mays we've recorded in 13 years to June which is comming in as one of hottest Junes in 13 years. 

Really quite remarkable that the vines have comecalong so fast and now are into bloom with some varieties at the end and others just getting started.

The Castel and Leon Millot are just finishing and many clusters have fruit set. The Marechal Foch and L'Acadie Blanc are 50-75% through bloom and the Evangeline and Petite Milo are just getting started.

Here is how they look,


Leon Millot


Marechal Foch

L'Acadie Blanc

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Starting Grape Cutting - update

 So we started the cuttings outside at the beginning of May..see the link to the earlier blog. The cuttings leafed out and were growing well but we had a nasty frost and several of the new buds got damaged.

What surprised me was how the cuttings kept pushing more secondary buds and the vines have lots of leaves popping. 

Checking to see if there is root development and the Foch is looking great (photo). I expect yge others are doing well too. 

Once those roots get to be about 3-4 inches, the shoots will really start to grow and they will be well on thier way. With any luck we'll get those new vines out into the vineyard by the end of July.

First Signs of Flowering

 From cold May to warm June and just like that the vines have caught up to where they should be and are on track for bloom in the last week of June.

Some flowers clusters show signs of bloom on the way with an occasional single flower in bloom - like the Marechal Foch seen here. Most are 7-14 days away to bloom yet.

The growth has been strong and significant rain in June which is good as the long range forcast looks like hot and dry weather on the way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Secondary Buds Are Fruitful

So I mentioned in the last blog about the frost we had. It killed alot of the crop we had comming - thank goodness we dont get those very often.

Often what happens after that primary bud is killed by the frost is that the secondary bud grows. In fact even with out a frost its common for many varieties to push out both the primary and secondary buds which turn into 2 shoots from the same node.

This is where crop adjustment happens and if you have both the primary and secondary bud growing into shoots then you go along the rows and pull off all those secondaries.

Generally speaking the secondary buds are not fruitful but some varieties, particularly the hybrids, often have fruitful secondary buds. That is worth noting is the capacity of some vines to still produce a crop on the secondary buds.

Usually the crop is much smaller on secondary buds but its better than nothing. This is one thing I like about the hybrids we grow. Lots of them can produce a decent crop on the secondary bud. The photo above is L'Acadie Blanc and you can see the primary bud/shoot died from the frost but the secondary is growing and fruitful with two visible flower clusters. Its a bit behind where we should be for growth but there is lots of time to catch up.

Foch and Leon Millot will produce on secondary buds as well. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Vines Are Leafing Out

So its been a cool May again, like 2020 but colder, and with frost and the vines have been slower to leaf out but they are coming along. We had a week of warm weather starting the end of may into June and that really brought the vines growing. The L'Acadie Blanc was among the earliest to bud out and leaf out which is rather remarkable as in years gone by they are no earlier than other varieties. Photo from June 5th. L'Acadie also suffered some frost damage, but about the same as the other varieties.

It may be that L'Acadie have the propensity to bud out in soil temperatures that are a bit cooler than the other varieties and with the cool May, the soil has stayed a bit cooler than usual - slowing the budding of other varieties like Marechal Foch and Petite Milo but yet warm enough to start the L'Acadie to push buds.

Just 1 or 2 degrees in soil temperature can make the difference. Several years back we had dozens of Leon Millot plants potted that were dormant and on shelves stored for the winter in our machine shed. In the spring as the temperature warmed up the vines on the top self at about 6' high started to push buds while none of the vines on the bottom shelf were showing any signs of pushing buds. It was quite remarkable to see as there was only a few degrees difference in the temperature from 1' off the ground to 6' off the ground on the shelves, but enough to warm the soil enough to get the top vines active.

Regardless we are in June now and all varieties are leafed out and catching up to L'Acadie. At this point we can start to gauge the crop potential based on the flower clusters observed.

But this is just speculation, we really wont get a solid picture of what the crop may be until early-mid July which is after flowering and fruit set. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Cold Start and Frost in May

 So with the month of May behind us we are hoping for some serious heat in June. May was really cool and everything is delayed by a week right now. In the last 10 years we would usually record a temperature of about 13c to 13.5c and that gets the vines leafing out by the last week of May.  

This May we recorded an average temperature of  12.0 and we had a late spring frost too of -2 on May 19.  There were records broken from cold temperatures all over and even Penticton recorded -1. As the vines were delayed a bit not all was lost but the frost still killed off alot of the primary buds. The secondary buds didnt get damaged and are pushing and there is some flower clusters there too but not the size or amount that exists on the primary buds. These secondary buds are also delayed and should be at the 5-6 leaf stage right now, but we have to leave most of them as replacement canes witch will become spurs at the next pruning. Last time we had a late spring frost like this was about 11 years ago and was -1 and really didn't cause much damage - so this time its an anomaly.

The crop will be smaller this year but already this starts to set things up for something interesting. Fewer buds and canes transfers more growth to those remaining canes and flower clusters - and its events like these that set one vintage apart from another.

Hoping now for a warm June and the flowering to happen before July as this would bring the progress back on track. We've had some high heat in late May and entering June and the vines are almost back on track.

Monday, May 17, 2021

"I am Groot" - Bulk Grape Vine Propagation

We propagate about 50-75 vines each year and depending on the variety we get up to 90% propagation rate to as low as 30%. This year we have a challenge. We are expanding our vineyard and we ordered hundreds of vines from a commercial vine supplier in Ontario only to find out that they went bankrupt, or were sold the other large commercial vine supplier, or we don't really know because their phones don't work, no email response, no one to tell us if we will get our deposit back for the order we placed (we highly doubt it).

So what can we do - well, if you've seen the Marvel movie "Guardians of the Galaxy" then you know about re-growing a plant. You are probably also familiar with the line "I am Groot" delivered by the tree-like character named Groot. (seen at left with co-star Rocket the Racoon). In this movie Groot gets smashed to a hundred pieces of wood after the space ship they were in crashed, but they re-grow Groot from a stick fragment. From the perspective of someone who grows grapes, I was most curious about the propagation of what was left of Groot after they crashed in the space ship.

Seemingly, all that was required to re-grow Groot was to take a stick fragment of the former Groot and stick it into a pot with soil and before

long the stick will grow (photo at right). Particularly interesting as that is the same way one can propagate grape vines - you take a healthy cutting of one of the canes from the grape vine, stick it in a pot of soil and watch it grow. Of course you need to keep it watered and give it sunlight but that will pretty much do it.

So we are growing our own vines this year, about 1500 of them, and enough for nearly 2 acres. Looks like an entire army of Groots. So far so good, the cuttings are budding out nicely, but they almost always bud out nicely at the start. Its the next stage of forming the roots that the vines can fail. We try to help that along by dipping the soil end of the cutting in rooting hormone to help stimulate the growth.

We have lots of buds starting to push out on our "Groot" vines (Marechal Foch seen at left) and they should be leafing out soon.

We've blogged about how to grow grape vines from cuttings before so here is the link. Growing Grape Vines Form Cuttings

Monday, May 10, 2021

Row Cover Clover

So since 2008 we've plowed between the rows to eliminate weeds and provide more soil moisture for the vines. The soil is both sandy and low in nutrients so it holds little moisture and provides little nutrients to the vines. Yet the vines grow, albiet slower than what one may expect and takes 6-7 years to reach full maturity.

Now that the vines are fully established we are seeding clover in ever second row. We started this last year and this spring it is coming up great and so now we are continuing with planting the clover in the rest of the vineyard. The clover will help to build the soil over the years yet it will consume alot of soil moisture. However now that the vines are mature with full and deep root systems they are less prone to soil water deficiency. In fact, over the past few years the vast majority of or vineyard has really not received any irrigation. 

There are a few things at play here here that help us eliminate the need to irrigate. 

  • Once the vines are mature, about 6 years old, they've developed a significant and deep root system that supplies their needs. 
  • Second, while we usually dont get any rain from early July to the end of August, our season is short, about 150 days/5 months long, so we dont have extremely long and extended periods without rain. In relation to this the snow usually doesn't finish melting until early April and its only 3-4 weeks later the vines are budding out. In contrast, varieties that take 180 days/6 months to ripen would suffer if in that extra month of drough was not replenished with irrigation or rainfall.
  • Third, we leave extra spacing between the rows, while limiting production, so this give a larger area for each vine to draw water from.
  • It is not uncommon to get cool summer evenings that result in precipitation of significant dew on the leaves and even the soil that help replenish some moisture. We blogged about that previously see link Moisture From Air
  • We usually get sporadic rains in May and June and the soil is still flush with moisture until mid July and then it starts to deplete. There is usually enough weter in the soil and from rain to fill out the grapes and then by the end of August, early September its pretty dry but in time for reducing soil moisture content heading into harvest.

The clover will consume some of that valuable moisture but now that the vines are mature they can handle these conditions without irrigation and the clover will serve well to build the soil over time and provides a great habitat for bees.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Buds Starting To Push

Temperature changed quickly in March and April has been warm but still snow pack in the mountains and cold nights brings the fog and mist into the trees around the vineyard.

We had a -24c event overnight in early February. Its the second coldest temperature we've recorded since we started recording temperatures in 2008. Coldest wever ever had is -25c in 2008.

For alot of clasic grape types like cabernet, -23c is a dangerous temperature as the buds will die at that temperature. Our vines are hybrids and can withstand temperatures much cooler. 

Leon Millot is probably the least cold toletant but still withstands -27c easily or colder. Petite Milo, Castel and Evangeline are similar but Marechal Foch and L'Acadie Blanc tolerate cold in the -30c neighborhood.

So this time of year starts to give indication if there was any cold damage. Its exciting as its the first look at what the year might be and so far so good buds look healthy and all varieties are pushing out. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Spring 2021

 Just a weeks ago we were 1 foot deep in hard pack snow and then the sun pokes holes in a few places and a week later the snow is gone. Still lots of snow in the mountains but the valleys are greening up.

It happens so fast and we are doing some pruning still and how remarkably quick the soil heats up and the pruning tips start bleeding sap.

Generally it was a warm winter but we did get a low of -24.5 c in February. That makes this winter low the second coldest weve recorded in 13 years.

Nice to see the canes look good for the most part, healthy green and centres. Remarkably the pinot noir looks really good and on par with the likes of leon millot.

Cutting into some buds they look pretty good too. The real test comes in about a month when the buds start to push and then we'll see if there is any damage.